Logan Lecture: Lawrence Argent

Shelby Simpson

Lawrence Argent is a English born artist, who studied sculpture at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Australia and has a MFA from the Rinehart School of Sculpture at the Maryland Institute, College of Art in Baltimore, Maryland.  Argent is a world-renowned installation and sculpture artist, who has created installations in Denver and Fort Collins, Colorado, Sacramento, California and Houston, Texas.  He is an artist known for designing larger than life sculptures, and placing them in environments where the viewer then is forced to question their perception of reality.

Argent spoke in Denver, Colorado, at the Denver Art Museum, during the Logan Lecture series, on April 18th, 2012.  He introduced his talk with a charming joke about a mysterious blue bear tattoo, where he finally set the facts straight, and denying any previous preserved notices of him and this particular tattoo.  He then began his lecture with his interest in symbols and the psychology that is implied with certain symbols.  He likes to explore the reasoning of why a person will think of one particular tree, when asked what a tree looks like.  He wishes to understand the nature of what things are and how we see them.  Argent begins with earlier works, such as Cojones (1999), which is a sculpture of two larger red street sweeping brushes.  The two are hung from the ceiling by steel cables, and have been trimmed, so that they have a rounder shape.  He is interested in found objects, and then recreating and replacing their existence in a certain place, so that the object then takes on a whole different meaning.  One of first installation pieces he created is called, Waiting (1998), where he places a chair on a platform, and a bucket above, suspended by a garden ladder.  Then there are images of different people’s rear ends projected onto the seat of the chair.  In this piece, he is interested in the history of the chair, and who might have sat in it.

After discussing early sculptures and installation pieces, Argent moved onto his contemporary public artworks.  Whisper (2002), was commissioned at the south entrance to the Ritchie Wellness Center, at the University of Denver campus.  The installation is made out of limestone, bronze, and has a sound element.  It is composed of five columns and four benches.  On-top of each column and on the side of the benches are symbols of lips.  The lips have been casted from a diverse group of students at the university, and then digitally modified to enlarge the lips, so that their size correlates to the size of the columns and benches.  An electronic sensor is triggered, when someone sits on the benches, and activated the sound of pre-recorded lectures to come out of the speakers.  The lectures come from a variety of content, such as scientific discoveries, poems, etc.  As someone is sitting down taking a rest, and not necessarily thinking about  a previous lecture, the lecture presents itself to the sitter.  Hearing a voice from above, the sitter, will start to understand, where he or she may have already heard this information, and it then becomes stuck in their head.

Another public art project, that people form Colorado are familiar with is the piece, I see what you mean (2005), which is displayed outside of the convention center, in Denver, Colorado. Argent says, “The architecture of this new structure is such a dominant presence in the location I thought it best to place a work that did not conflict with the essences of ifs design or stature, and which would embrace ifs uniqueness of form and the relationship to the space it occupies.”  Therefore making the scale of this bear extremely large.  Argent reflects on his experiences living in the area, and the journey one will take walking by the convention center.  There is a curiosity that emerges when passing by this particular building.  The convention center is a meeting place, where people exchange information and ideas.  When considering the place and form of this project, Argent thought about “regional western art and the thought of what that is from a non-residents perspective, and the natural surroundings of Colorado.”

One of my favorite public installations, is his piece, Leap, that just has been recently finished in the Sacramento airport.  The piece is of a giant size red rabbit, that jumps from where travelers arrive at the gate, to the the baggage claim, into a suitcase, where travelers stand waiting for their luggage.  This piece is about drive, desire, anticipation, anxiety, hope, frustration, and success.  Argent takes into consideration, all of the emotions for would experience, when traveling.  And how receiving your luggage means you are home, or are about to make your journey.  Argent looked into, “what I was attempting to create to interact with the space, emerged from the amplified meaning associated with “baggage,” literally and metaphorically.”

Lawrence Argent’s Logan lecture was insightful.  He spoke about where his idea came from, and he relates physiology to a symbol, in almost all of his projects.  It is also interesting to see all the steps and people, who are involved in one of his projects.  He uses several of engineers, fabricator, and consultants, to make one piece.  His work is presents a theatrical element in public environments.  It also relies of the magic of the story and imagination, that people associate with a specific image or form.


Source: “Lawrence Argent :: Home.” Lawrence Argent. Web. 24 Apr. 2012. <http://www.lawrenceargent.com/&gt;.

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